A Pankhearst Interview
Who are you?
Where are you?
New York City
And how the hell are you doing?
Crazy busy. Work, marriage, two kids, nutty dog, a few books in the works, and I’m in the process of selling my apartment and trying to buy a house.
Tell us about your new/latest book.
My newest book—CROSSLINE—is a fun, suspenseful (and sometimes humorous) adventure about two ambitious and daring men involved with the space program in different ways, set in a tale of two worlds. Consider:
How does a poor, uneducated gas station attendant from nowhere USA transform himself into the world’s richest oil tycoon, and then revolutionize the space program?
And when an American test pilot is thrust into a familiar yet mysterious world millions of miles from home, what must he risk to make it back to his family alive?
How do the lives of these two men intersect? How do their worlds overlap?
And what do their fates mean for us all?
If you are looking for a full-throttle journey with memorable characters, you might enjoy CROSSLINE. It’s an exciting, mysterious tale that reveals the question: once you’ve crossed the line, can you ever really go back?
Why are you publishing independently?
The book publishing industry has changed drastically over the last several years, and continues to change every day. I am now writing exclusively with Crazy 8 Press because I wanted to work with a small publisher group that is controlled and driven by its authors, such as myself. Only a handful of authors in the world get major backing from the few big publishers who are left standing. So for now at least, I see the ‘indie’ world as the best option for me. But that could always change. You just never know what’s coming next.
How is publishing independently working for you?
It’s a mixed bag. I have total control over the content of my books, which is great, so I always know that I’m telling the stories I want to tell in the way I want to tell them, and I work only with the people I choose to partner with. Of course, there are challenges. As an ‘indie’ author I have to do most of the marketing myself—which is a time-consuming and tiring endeavor—and because the e-book market has exploded globally, there’s just so much more competition for readers that it’s very difficult to break through the clutter.
Which movie stars would you cast in the movie of your book and how many of them do you fancy?
CROSSLINE has a large cast, so I’ll do my best here:
- Marcus Powell: Bradley Cooper
- Mitri Amos: Ryan Gosling
- Chandra Powell: Sarah Shahi
- Keela Amos: Jessica Chastain
- Harlan ‘Buddy’ Rheams Jr: James Cromwell
- Dale Aranuke: Paul Giamatti
- Doc Anson: Hugh Laurie
- Chill: Geoffrey Wright
- Dolores the Baker: Melissa McCarthy
- Sean: Aaron Paul
- Carlos ‘Riva’ Guerra: Michael Pena
Do I ‘fancy’ any of them? Well … if Sarah Shahi wants to stop by and say hello, I might find a way to be okay with that!
What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?
I’m deep into the FINDERS KEEPERS sequel, which will be available in print and e-book from Crazy 8 Press in 2014. As for a sneak peak … uh, sorry! You’ll have to hold out until the entire book is done. But for those of you unfamiliar, FINDERS KEEPERS is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against the quest for a jar the contains the Universe’s DNA. Think American Pie/Superbad meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The sequel continues that adventure with the core characters from the first book front and center again, with a few new characters joining the fun. There will be three books in total for the first FINDERS KEEPERS trilogy. And while the three books complete one overarching journey, each book stands alone as its own adventure.
Favorite author, and why?
I’m not sure if I have a single favorite, but Christopher Moore is certainly on that list. He has a truly warped, hilarious mind, which I appreciate. In particular I love LAMB, YOU SUCK, and FOOL. Christopher Moore might be the funniest writer of our generation. And if you ever see him do a reading—which I’ve done several times—he might be the funniest stand-up comedian I’ve ever seen who doesn’t really do stand-up comedy for a living. He can hold court for an hour or more. He’s always funny as hell and really interesting.
Who’s your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
It’s actually a question that doesn’t get asked—or answered—as often as you’d think. The audience I target is pretty broad. I write fun, adventurous popcorn books with a sometimes stoner/wise-ass sense of humor, written for readers who like to go on crazy, exhilarating rides and don’t really care about the genre.
Some of my books—such as FINDERS KEEPERS—are zany comedies, while others, such as CROSSLINE, are mysterious adventures that contain humor. My humor can run a little naughty at times, which isn’t for everyone (and definitely not for kids!), but regardless I want readers to have a good time.
But underneath the fun I take my stories and characters seriously. They grapple with the big issues as well as the small—I just don’t like to preach about them.
My first few books are technically ‘sci-fi’ which some readers just love straight away, while others are turned off at first glance because they instinctively lump ‘sci-fi’ together as all being the same and something they’re not interested in. But understand—I do not write about aliens, laser beams, mutants, or dark depressing futures with zombies, polluted, toxic air and such. I don’t do Stars Wars, Star Trek, or Blade Runner. I love all of those worlds, but that’s not what I do. I also don’t consider myself to be an ‘artiste,’ nor do I write ‘literature.’
As a reader, if you like to have fun, go on crazy adventures, have a few laughs—and even think a little—you might want to check out my books.
How much of you will a reader find in your writing? If you have a good example, don’t be shy.
There’s probably a little bit of me in every character. I write from the gut. When the characters talk, I try to channel them, and let their thoughts flow as I clack the keys. I wouldn’t say any one character I’ve created is actually me, although Jason Medley from the FINDERS KEEPERS series is probably the closest version to how I saw myself at any one point in time, which is very uncomfortable for me to do! Yikes! Embarrassing!
What advice would you give to a new author?
Write every day.
In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
E-book technology has in a very real way made publishing much easier for anyone who has the ambition. But that doesn’t mean writing a quality book is easy or that it will sell. My advice to new authors is to take the writing and publishing process seriously, assume it will be extremely hard work, and plan for minimal sales. Work with a professional/qualified editor to help ensure that your story is strong, and before finalizing your manuscript, enlist a quality copy editor to ensure that your manuscript is grammatically clean and error free. Never serve as your own editor. Bad idea! And once your book is officially published, be prepared to switch hats and become your own head of marketing, which can be a full-time job if you let it.
What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing? Ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?
Finding enough time each day to just sit and write, with no interruptions. But as long as I’m willing—or able—to forgo sleep and sanity, there’s always time.
What’s one of your favorite ‘a-ha’ writer moments?
I was on a Caribbean cruise not long after 9/11, and I was in the gym, on the elliptical machine, staring through the clear glass windows, out at the ocean, as I worked up a sweat. For the previous few years I had been thinking about FINDERS KEEPERS, but hadn’t started writing. It didn’t even have a title. But I knew the basic story and a lot of the sequencing. But still, something was missing. So there I was, looking at the waves—it was a perfect, cloudless sky with the sun refracting off the water—when in the distance I saw a dolphin fin, and then an entire school of dolphins, and then … WHAM-O! I had that Eureka/A-Ha moment. I don’t want to give away too much for those who haven’t read it, but it’s safe to say that some connective tissue became apparent to me then and there. I hopped off the machine, and scribbled notes down on an activity sheet at the front desk, and ultimately incorporated those ideas into what became FINDERS KEEPERS and now the sequel. I still have that sheet of paper stashed away in my box of notes.
What element of writing fiction to you think you’re best at? What gives you the most trouble?
Writing dialogue comes most natural to me, and probably the element that I get the most praise for. I love getting a few characters in a room and then letting them just have at it, like they’re in a play, and there’s no holding back. I really try to capture not just their personalities, but the rhythm and cadence of their interplay. Characters tend to reveal themselves through dialogue, and bring out new and exciting surprises. For me it’s a blast. I love writing dialogue, and the fans seem to connect with it.
Yet I struggle at times with structure. My first few novels have been fairly large in scope, incorporating multiple characters and parallel storylines. I’m getting better at it on my own, but I rely on a very good editor friend of mine to help me keep the narrative focused. I thank him as often and as profusely as I can! He absolutely makes me a better writer. I never think I can do it all on my own.
What part of the writing process do you think gets overlooked the most?
Editing, no doubt. Getting the initial ideas down can be its own challenge, but the editing process—for me, anyway—is where the really important work begins. My first drafts are usually … okay. The backbone of the story is there, but I usually find gaps in logic, missed opportunities, plot holes, sections that are over- or under-written and just sloppy, wonky prose.
My process is to bang away at the story and get it all down on paper, and clean it up later. I do no less than four major rounds of revisions, and usually more than that. The first round or two is all about story structure and flow, and character development. The overall story has to hold together under intense scrutiny. It needs to work. Third round is about polishing off the dialogue, and the subsequent rounds are dedicated to cutting as much as possible, and fine-tuning every line on every page. I try to be relentless and unforgiving while I edit. If you don’t absolutely need a word, get rid of it. I want the final draft to be the best I can deliver at the time I’m doing it.
Russ Colchamiro will be giving away two signed paperbacks (US, UK, Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia) and three Kindle versions (available globally) of the five star book, CROSSLINE during the Reader Meet Author giveaway